This French fashion house’s famous trunks have borne witness to the changing tides of history, remaining just as covetable more than a hundred years later today.
This is an excerpt from Lifestyle Asia’s March 2023 Issue.
It was in 1837 when a young Louis Vuitton decided to go to Paris to apprentice in the city’s preeminent layetier emballeurs. Experts in the art of packing and protecting delicate garments, these craftsmen were called upon by the city’s elite who traveled with entire wardrobes by train, boat, and horse-drawn carriage.
When he had finally decided to open his own store at Rue Neuve des Capucines, Vuitton sought to introduce numerous innovations into the design of his trunks. With people now traveling faster and further, the malletier endeavored to create luggage that was lighter and stronger, but also aesthetically pleasing. In as early as 1854, the Frenchman decided to cover his trunks with a new material, a lightweight yet resistant canvas known as “Gris Trianon”, which would eventually be dubbed Vuittonite. The ingenious entrepreneur had also thought of making his trunks flat, and therefore stackable in transit— a stark contrast to the rounded ones of the time.
Vuitton was so renowned for his skill and the quality of his work that even Empress Eugénie de Montijo, the wife of Napoleon III, became one of his clients. And eventually, her impressive milieu.
The brand’s trunks eventually sported a red-striped canvas in the 1870s, before giving way to the Damier check in 1888. The emblematic monogram with abstract floral motifs we know today came later in 1896, designed by Louis’ son Georges, who had wanted to honor his father with the former’s initials. This was again another trailblazing move, as most trunks then had only sported their owner’s monogram.
Vuitton’s trunks were not only beautiful but also extremely secure. In 1886, the father and son duo began developing locks with an ingenious closing mechanism. A few years later, Georges would patent this system, even publicly challenging Harry Houdini to escape from one of their trunks. Houdini didn’t rise to the challenge, adding to the brand’s reputation.
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Photos courtesy of Louis Vuitton.